Fact Sheet: Obama’s Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

Repost from the White House Press Release

Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

August 3, 2015

The Clean Power Plan is a Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country

Today at the White House, President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will release the final Clean Power Plan, a historic step in the Obama Administration’s fight against climate change.

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country. In fact, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century and last year was the warmest year ever. The most vulnerable among us – including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Taking action now is critical.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. We already set limits that protect public health by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, but until now, existing power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.

The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal. By setting carbon pollution reduction goals for power plants and enabling states to develop tailored implementation plans to meet those goals, the Clean Power Plan is a strong, flexible framework that will:

  • Provide significant public health benefits – The Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.
  • Create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability;
  • Drive more aggressive investment in clean energy technologies than the proposed rule, resulting in 30 percent more renewable energy generation in 2030 and continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy.
  • Save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes, and save consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020-2030;
  • Give a head start to wind and solar deployment and prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities that need it most early in the program through a Clean Energy Incentive Program; and
  • Continue American leadership on climate change by keeping us on track to meet the economy-wide emissions targets we have set, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

KEY FEATURES OF THE CLEAN POWER PLAN

The final Clean Power Plan takes into account the unprecedented input EPA received through extensive outreach, including the 4 million comments that were submitted to the agency during the public comment period. The result is a fair, flexible program that will strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. The Clean Power Plan significantly reduces carbon pollution from the electric power sector while advancing clean energy innovation, development, and deployment. It ensures the U.S. will stay on a path of long-term clean energy investments that will maintain the reliability of our electric grid, promote affordable and clean energy for all Americans, and continue United States leadership on climate action. The Clean Power Plan:   

  • Provides Flexibility to States to Choose How to Meet Carbon Standards: EPA’s Clean Power Plan establishes carbon pollution standards for power plants, called carbon dioxide (CO2) emission performance rates. States develop and implement tailored plans to ensure that the power plants in their state meet these standards– either individually, together, or in combination with other measures like improvements in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The final rule provides more flexibility in how state plans can be designed and implemented, including: streamlined opportunities for states to include proven strategies like trading and demand-side energy efficiency in their plans, and allows states to develop “trading ready” plans to participate in “opt in” to an emission credit trading market with other states taking parallel approaches without the need for interstate agreements. All low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, natural gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, can play a role in state plans.
  • More Time for States Paired With Strong Incentives for Early Deployment of Clean Energy: State plans are due in September of 2016, but states that need more time can make an initial submission and request extensions of up to two years for final plan submission.  The compliance averaging period begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual “glide path” to 2030. These provisions to give states and companies more time to prepare for compliance are paired with a new Clean Energy Incentive Program to drive deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency before 2022.
  • Creates Jobs and Saves Money for Families and Businesses: The Clean Power Plan builds on the progress states, cities, and businesses and have been making for years. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by half and wind is increasingly competitive nationwide. The Clean Power Plan will drive significant new investment in cleaner, more modern and more efficient technologies, creating tens of thousands of jobs. Under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28 percent of our capacity, up from 22 percent in the proposed rule. Due to these improvements, the Clean Power Plan will save the average American nearly $85 on their energy bill in 2030, and save consumers a total of $155 billion through 2020-2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes.
  • Rewards States for Early Investment in Clean Energy, Focusing on Low-Income Communities: The Clean Power Plan establishes a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will drive additional early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency. Under the program, credits for electricity generated from renewables in 2020 and 2021 will be awarded to projects that begin construction after participating states submit their final implementation plans. The program also prioritizes early investment in energy efficiency projects in low-income communities by the Federal government awarding these projects double the number of credits in 2020 and 2021. Taken together, these incentives will drive faster renewable energy deployment, further reduce technology costs, and lay the foundation for deep long-term cuts in carbon pollution. In addition, the Clean Energy Incentive Plan provides additional flexibility for states, and will increase the overall net benefits of the Clean Power Plan.
  • Ensures Grid Reliability: The Clean Power Plan contains several important features to ensure grid reliability as we move to cleaner sources of power. In addition to giving states more time to develop implementation plans, starting compliance in 2022, and phasing in the targets over the decade, the rule requires states to address reliability in their state plans. The final rule also provides a “reliability safety valve” to address any reliability challenges that arise on a case-by-case basis. These measures are built on a framework that is inherently flexible in that it does not impose plant-specific requirements and provides states flexibility to smooth out their emission reductions over the period of the plan and across sources.
  • Continues U.S. Leadership on Climate Change: The Clean Power Plan continues United States leadership on climate change. By driving emission reductions from power plants, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Clean Power Plan builds on prior Administration steps to reduce emissions, including historic investments to deploy clean energy technologies, standards to double the fuel economy of our cars and light trucks, and steps to reduce methane pollution. Taken together these measures put the United States on track to achieve the President’s near-term target to reduce emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and lay a strong foundation to deliver against our long-term target to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The release of the Clean Power Plan continues momentum towards international climate talks in Paris in December, building on announcements to-date of post-2020 targets by countries representing 70 percent of global energy based carbon emissions.
  • Sets State Targets in a Way That Is Fair and Is Directly Responsive to Input from States, Utilities, and Stakeholders: In response to input from stakeholders, the final Clean Power Plan modifies the way that state targets are set by using an approach that better reflects the way the electricity grid operates, using updated information about the cost and availability of clean generation technologies, and establishing separate emission performance rates for all coal plants and all gas plants.
  • Maintains Energy Efficiency as Key Compliance Tool: In addition to on-site efficiency and greater are reliance on low and zero carbon generation, the Clean Power Plan provides states with broad flexibility to design carbon reduction plans that include energy efficiency and other emission reduction strategies.  EPA’s analysis shows that energy efficiency is expected to play a major role in meeting the state targets as a cost-effective and widely-available carbon reduction tool, saving enough energy to power 30 million homes and putting money back in ratepayers’ pockets.
  • Requires States to Engage with Vulnerable Populations: The Clean Power Plan includes provisions that require states to meaningfully engage with low-income, minority, and tribal communities, as the states develop their plans. EPA also encourages states to engage with workers and their representatives in the utility and related sectors in developing their state plans.
  • Includes a Proposed Federal Implementation Plan: EPA is also releasing a proposed federal plan today. This proposed plan will provide a model states can use in designing their plans, and when finalized, will be a backstop to ensure that the Clean Power Plan standards are met in every state. 

Since the Clean Air Act became law more than 45 years ago with bipartisan support, the EPA has continued to protect the health of communities, in particular those vulnerable to the impacts of harmful air pollution, while the economy has continued to grow. In fact, since 1970, air pollution has decreased by nearly 70 percent while the economy has tripled in size. The Clean Power Plan builds on this progress, while providing states the flexibility and tools to transition to clean, reliable, and affordable electricity.

BUILDING ON PROGRESS

The Clean Power Plan builds on steps taken by the Administration, states, cities, and companies to move to cleaner sources of energy. Solar electricity generation has increased more than 20-fold since 2008, and electricity from wind has more than tripled.  Efforts such as the following give us a strong head start in meeting the Clean Power Plan’s goals:

  • 50 states with demand-side energy efficiency programs
  • 37 states with renewable portfolio standards or goals
  • 10 states with market-based greenhouse gas reduction programs
  • 25 states with energy efficiency standards or goals

Today’s actions also build on a series of actions the Administration is taking through the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the dangerous levels of carbon pollution that are contributing to climate change, including:

  • Standards for Light and Heavy-Duty Vehicles: Earlier this summer, the EPA and the Department of Transportation proposed the second phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which if finalized as proposed will reduce 1 billion tons of carbon pollution. The proposed standards build on the first phase of heavy-duty vehicle requirements and standards for light-duty vehicles issued during the President’s first term that will save Americans $1.7 trillion, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025, and slash greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons through the lifetime of the program.
  • Low Income Solar: Last month, the White House announced a new initiative to increase access to solar energy for all Americans, in particular low-and moderate income communities, and build a more inclusive workforce. The initiative will help families and businesses cut their energy bills through launching a National Community Solar Partnership to unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and business that are renters or do not have adequate roof space to install solar systems and sets a goal to install 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing by 2020. Through this initiative housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and organizations in more than 20 states across the country committed to put in place more than 260 solar energy projects and philanthropic and impact investors, states, and cities are committed to invest $520 million to advance community solar and scale up solar and energy efficiency for low- and moderate- income households. The initiative also includes AmeriCorps funding to deploy solar and create jobs in underserved communities and a commitment from the solar industry to become the most diverse sector of the U.S. energy industry.
  • Economy-Wide Measures to Reduce other Greenhouse Gases: EPA and other agencies are taking actions to cut methane emissions from oil and gas systems, landfills, coal mining, and agriculture through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. At the same time, the U.S. Department of State is working to slash global emissions of potent industrial greenhouse gases, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol; EPA is cutting domestic HFC emissions through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program; and, the private sector has stepped up with commitments to cut global HFC emissions equivalent to 700 million metric tons of carbon pollution through 2025.
  • Investing in Coal Communities, Workers, and Communities:  In February, as part of the President’s FY 2016 budget, the Administration released the POWER+ Plan to invest in workers and jobs, address important legacy costs in coal country, and drive the development of coal technology. The Plan provides dedicated new resources for economic diversification, job creation, job training, and other employment services for workers and communities impacted by layoffs at coal mines and coal-fired power plants; includes unprecedented investments in the health and retirement security of mineworkers and their families and the accelerated clean-up of hazardous coal abandoned mine lands; and provides new tax incentives to support continued technology development and deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies.
  • Energy Efficiency Standards:  DOE set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through energy conservation standards issued during this Administration. DOE has already finalized energy conservation standards for 29 categories of appliances and equipment, as well as a building code determination for commercial buildings. These measures will also cut consumers’ annual electricity bills by billions of dollars.
  • Investing in Clean Energy:  In June the White House announced more than $4 billion in private-sector commitments and executive actions to scale up investment in clean energy innovation, including launching a new Clean Energy Impact Investment Center at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to make information about energy and climate programs at DOE and other government agencies accessible and more understandable to the public, including to mission-driven investors.

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    Phillips 66 refinery fire in Rodeo, California

    Repost from the Contra Costa Times

    East Bay: Rodeo’s Phillips 66 refinery fire extinguished

    By George Kelly, 08/03/2015 06:27:13 AM PDT
    A photo shows a fire that broke out Sunday afternoon at the Philips 66 refinery in Rodeo.
    A fire broke out Sunday afternoon at the Philips 66 refinery in Rodeo. (Courtesy of Jason Sutton)

    RODEO — A small fire Sunday at the Phillips 66 refinery spurred the county health department to issue a public health advisory for the towns of Rodeo and Crockett.

    The fire began around 3 p.m. at the refinery site in the 1300 block of San Pablo Avenue, spurring a response from refinery fire staff and Rodeo-Hercules fire district firefighters, Phillips 66 spokesman Paul Adler said in a statement. No injuries were reported, and the fire’s cause is under investigation, Adler said.

    The Contra Costa County incident warning system issued an alert just before 3:15 p.m. that staff concerned with hazardous materials were responding to a report of a fire at the refinery. County officials advise people with respiratory sensitivities to avoid the area or stay inside and rinse any irritated area with water but added that most people should not be affected.

    The county’s hazardous materials incident response site listed the refinery’s last major incident as a little more than three years ago. On June 15, 2012, an overpressured sour water tank left splits in two tanks, sending chemical vapors into the air and leaving odors detectable in surrounding communities, according to a tally of major accidents at the county’s chemical and refinery plants.

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      Video: Bomb Trains on the Hudson River

      Repost from HudsonRiverAtRisk.com
      [Editor:  Another excellent regional video about the potential for horrific environmental impacts due to crude by rail.  We are doing our best to guarantee that the marshlands, valleys, cities and towns of Northern California don’t become the next Hudson River Valley, transporting billions of gallons of Bakken Crude every year.  – RS]

      BOMB TRAINS ON THE HUDSON – BAKKEN SHALE COMES TO THE RIVER

      By Jon Bowermaster, July 13, 2015

      The sight of long trains made up of one hundred-plus black, cylindrical cars, rolling slowly through cities and towns across North America – often within yards of office buildings, hospitals and schools — has become commonplace.

      Few who see them know that these sinister-looking cars carry a highly flammable mixture of gas and oil from the shale fields of North Dakota. At thirty thousand gallons per car, each of these trains carries more than three million gallons of highly flammable and toxic fuel, earning them the nickname “bomb trains.”

      I see them on a daily basis in the Hudson Valley, whether stacked up four-deep alongside the thruway in Albany, crossing an aging trestle bridge in Kingston, rolling behind strip malls and health care facilities in Ulster, paralleling the very edge of the Hudson River. Several of the long, ominous-looking trains snake south from Albany to refineries in Philadelphia every day, crossing New Jersey, paralleling Manhattan.

      And this oil/gas combo is not just moving by rail: Last year three billion gallons of crude that arrived in Albany by train from the North Dakota were offloaded to tanks and then barges to be shipped downriver. The very first tanker carrying crude oil ran aground, a dozen miles south of the Port of Albany; thankfully its interior hull was not breached.

      The boom in this train traffic – in 2009 there were 9,000 of the black rail cars, today there are more than 500,000 – correlates directly with the boom in fracking of gas and oil across the U.S. Record amounts of both are being pulled out of the ground in the Dakotas, Colorado, Texas and thirty other states and needs to be delivered to refineries. Pipelines take time to build and often run into community resistance; since there are railways already leading in every direction the oil and gas industry has taken them over. In 2010, 55,000 barrels of crude oil were shipped by rail each day in the U.S.; today it is more than 1 million barrels … per day.

      During the same period there’s been another corollary, a boom in horrific railway accidents resulting in derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Sometimes they occur near fragile wetlands (Aliceville, AL, November 2013); sometimes in neighborhoods where hundreds must be evacuated (Casselton, ND, December 2013); and sometimes in the middle of a town (Lac-Megantic, Quebec, July 2013, where 47 people were killed in a midnight derailment).

      Since February 14 a half-dozen of these “bomb trains” have derailed and spilled or exploded, in Illinois, Ontario and West Virginia, leaving widespread destruction and environmental damage in their wake. A half-mile on either side of the tracks is considered within the “blast zone” when these fuel-laden trains crash. Increasingly they are mentioned as potential terrorist weapons.

      bomb_train_accidents_2013-2015Efforts to regulate this explosion of shipping by rail has proven difficult. It seems that no one wants to accept the responsibility (or costs) of improving the safety of the cars, the tracks, the infrastructure they run over or the volatile fuel. On May 2 the Department of Transportation issued some new rules and regulations regarding the speed trains can travel at through communities, required updated and safer rail cars and more, but most of the proposed changes don’t take effect for many years. Environmental advocates are not hopeful for much quick change given the powerful lobbying efforts of the gas, oil and rail industries.

      New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously said there was little the state could do to slow the traffic, but even he is concerned about the possibility of accident; last month the governor’s office issued a complaint after investigating train cars coming into Albany and citing 84 “defects.”

      Opposition to new safety rules comes despite that the D.O.T. estimates that if this pace of shipping continues there will be fifteen major accidents every year and one of the enormity of Lac-Megantic (47 people killed) every two years.

      “Even if new measures are adopted,” says Roger Downs, an Albany-based attorney with the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, “it still feels like a half-baked plan to address a wholly inappropriate way to move oil.”

       

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        Roger Straw: Crude by rail is dangerous — and dirty!

        Repost from the Benicia Herald

        Crude by rail is dangerous — and dirty!

        By Roger Straw, August 2, 2015
        Roger Straw

        BACK IN JUNE OF 2013, I was alarmed to discover that Valero had plans to make me and all of Benicia complicit in the massive destruction taking place in the pristine forests of Alberta, Canada. With city Planning Commission approval, Valero planned to purchase crude oil taken from strip mines in Canada that are the dirtiest producers of oil on earth, then ship it on dangerous trains all across the West to our back yard.

        Since then, Benicians have learned much more about Valero’s proposal. We’ve learned that Valero would also like to ship volatile Bakken crude oil, taken from fracking facilities in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest, on these trains. Bakken oil has proven different from most other crude, based on the eight accidents since July 2013 involving derailed trains that carried Bakken oil and resulted in massive fires and explosions. Several explosive train derailments have also been loaded with diluted tar sands crude.

        Benicians have also learned much more about the trains themselves. Now we know how weak the train cars are, and how the federal government has established new rules that give industry years to strengthen them. Old DOT-111 tank cars still roll down our tracks. Updated — but still highly inadequate — DOT-1232 cars continue to roll, and retrofits of the older cars are to be spread out over the next decade. The railroads circumvent reporting requirements on their shipments to our state and county emergency responders by assembling trains that carry less than a million gallons of crude oil. And even when everything else goes right, aging railroad ties and rails will break, bridges will fail, and there aren’t enough inspectors. The accidents will continue.

        Americans are sick of seeing the huge balls of fire on TV. We pray that the next BIG ONE will not be in a highly populated area — but we can’t reasonably pray there will be no next BIG ONE. It’s a matter of when, not if.

        Finally, even if all the public safety issues could be solved, Valero’s proposal does far more harm to the environment than the company would have us think. Beginning at the source, production of these North American “extreme crudes” is beyond ugly: oil companies strip and gouge and pollute the soil, destroy wildlife habitat and contribute to soaring cancer rates in human communities. They foul the social fabric of small towns and farming communities with a disruptive boom-and-bust economy. Then come the trains, polluting the air from the upper Midwest all the way to Benicia, clattering over mountains and through gorgeous river passes and right through the hearts of our cities and towns, rattling and clattering near our schools, retirement villages, commercial and industrial centers and homes. In all this (if we give our permission), at every step along the way, the oil and rail industries contribute mightily to the warming of planet Earth.

        Valero would like us to think that crude oil trains will save on air pollution by cutting back on the number of marine oil tankers. This may hold for a small region like the San Francisco Bay Area, but the city of Benicia’s own study showed that there would be “significant and unavoidable” impacts to air quality outside the Bay Area. Experts add that there would be “toxic plumes” all along the rail lines: “This thing called ‘crude shrinkage’ happens during transport, where entrained gases escape, leading to a 0.5- to 3-percent loss of crude oil. It’s a big problem for volatile crude oils like Bakken, and coupled with the high benzene levels found in some North American crudes (up to 7 percent) …we estimate over 100 pounds per day of excess benzene emissions from the Valero proposal in the Bay Area (or 1800 times more than the draft EIR reports),” said NRDC Senior Scientist Diane Bailey. Read her blog here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dbailey/valeros_promise_to_benicia_wel.html.

        In short, oil trains are dangerous AND dirty.

        The city of Benicia will release a revised draft environmental impact report on Valero’s proposal at the end of August. Everyone should stay tuned. Be prepared to study the document, read critical reviews, and share a comment with our Planning Commission. Together, we can make a difference.

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